1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Inigo Jones

(Part 108)

Inigo Jones

So dilatory were we, indeed, in the cultivation of the Italian style, that the first professor of it who was actually employed on edifices in this country came to it from Denmark! It is true he was an Englishman; but so little hope did he appear to have of success at home, that he accepted an invitation from the kind of that country. He had gone to Venice to study painting; but becoming enamoured of architecture, as he saw it in the works of Palladio, he had made that his study instead, and had already acquired considerable reputation in that city when Christian IV of Denmark invited him to his court to occupy the post of his first architect.
A train of circumstances brought him to England a few years after James I came to the English crown, and he was appointed architect at first to the queen, and subsequently to Henry prince of Wales. But this does not appear to have then obtained employment for him, since after the death of the prince he went again to Italy, where he remained till the office of surveyor-general, which had been promised him in reversion, fell vacant.

This was the celebrated Inigo Jones, who has been called the English Palladio, and, indeed, he succeeded so well in acquiring the peculiar manner of that architect, that he richly deserves whatever credit the appellation conveys. It is unfortunate, however, for his own reputation, that he had not looked beyond Palladio and their common preceptor Vitruvius to the models the latter pretends to describe; in which case he might have been the means of solving the question whether the truly classical architecture of the ancients could ever be introduced here with any advantage. But instead of that be brought nothing home but Italian rules and Italian prejudices.

Jones commenced the truly Gothic custom, of thrusting Cinquencento fittings into our Pointed cathedrals, by putting up an Italian screen in that of Winschester; and he barbarized the ancient cathedral of St Paul in London, by repairing it according to his notions of Pointed architecture, whilst at the same he defaced its exterior by affixing to it an Italian front.

Of the Palladian style, however, he was a complete master. He designed a royal palace, which was to have been built at Whitehall, in a manner as the works of Palladio are to those of Borromini.

The only part of Jone’s design ever executed is the structure called the Banqueting House, whose exterior is an epitome of many of the faults and most of the beauties of the Palladian school. It rises boldly from the ground with a broad, simple, and nearly continuous basement, or stereobate, and the various compartments of its principal front are beautifully proportioned; but though the circular pediments to the windows, the attached unfluted columns, with broken entablatures and stylobates, the attic and balustrade, be the materials of Palladian, it may be confidently denied that they are consistent with classical, architecture.

Another well-known work of this architect is the Italo-Vitruvian Tuscan church of St. Paul, Covent Garden, whose eastern portico is well-proportioned in general, but grossly deformed in detail, and whose interior was left to take care of itself, having absolutely no charm either of proportion or detail.

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